Jazz Age Vintage Jewelry and Beyond

All heirlooms have stories, if we know how to find them.  I am listening to the stories of my mother’s vintage jewelry today.

Last week I shared pieces of jewelry that once belonged to my great-grandmother, Harriette Morgan Stout.  This week I am showing you some of my mother’s jewelry.  Harriette Anderson Kaser liked pretty things, and kept everything that had a special meaning to her, from a gift from a boyfriend to charm bracelets with her children and grandchildren’s names. Few of the pieces have any intrinsic value.  Jewelry did not have to be studded with precious gems for her to enjoy it.

Take for instance, this nostalgic piece, given to her by her boyfriend when she spent one year living in Columbus and attending Ohio State University.  They were both pre-med students, and he went on to become a doctor, but as I’ve explained before, she left college for teaching, and finished her degree gradually in stints at summer school. They drifted apart, but she never forgot him and that magical year.

Harriette Anderson

Harriette Anderson and Ray Jarvis at Ohio State, 1923

Harriette Anderson necklace 1923

Harriette Anderson (Kaser) pendant, gift from College boyfriend. 1923. Onyx in silver with diamond chip in center.

It would be many years before she started dating my father, and they married in 1938.  While I am not sure my memory is correct, I believe she wore this bracelet for their wedding at a friend’s home.  It always makes me think of the Great Gatsby, although it was a little bit later–30s instead of 20s. I have searched on the Internet, and have not been able to find any pice similar to this.  The metal (perhaps copper) was painted brown, and the paint has rubbed off.  I am not sure what material is used for the flowers, but they are attached to the bracelet with thin wires, and I can’t imagine that it could have been constructed by machine.

1930s bracelet

Harriette Anderson Kaser bracelet, circa 1938.

One time in the 1940s, my father brought back these tourist trade Indian bracelets for me and for my mother.  These are vintage jewelry because most people from the mid west or east did not have a clue that there was a difference between machine made and artist created Indian jewelry. Although most jewelry evokes good memories, these bracelets, which were mine, remind me of the ones my mother had that forever changed her life.

My mother and father took my one-year-old brother and six-year-old me to Millersburg, Ohio from Killbuck (a trip of about 12 miles) to visit my father’s brother, Keith Kaser. On the road home we had a terrible automobile accident. I will talk about that accident later, but mother was wearing her Indian bracelet the force of the accident drove it into her wrist, cutting ligaments and leaving her unable to fully close her hand for the rest of her life.  (Despite the injury, she played golf in later years!)

Unfortunately, I don’t remember who gave her this lovely pendant necklace with the carved front. Although the pictures date from the mid 1960s, the necklace could have been older. The story here certainly is her devotion to her three children.

As a teacher, she always depended on a wrist watch and for many years wore a rather plain gold Waltham watch. However, when the quartz watches came along in the late 60s, my father bought her this decorative gold Helbros watch. Since hardly anyone wears a watch any more, these are immediately recognizable as vintage jewelry. There was a time when women owned several wrist watches to go with various outfits. At the very least they would have a plain one for every day use and a fancy one, perhaps with precious stones, for evening wear. My sister and I were remarking on the fact that neither of us owns a good wrist watch. When she needs to keep track of time for a class she teaches, she uses a ten dollar watch from a shopping center kiosk. I have depended on my cell phone to tell me the time for many years, and my last three watches, before I stopped wearing them, were inexpensive Timex watches from the local drug store.

Harriette Anderson Kaser wristwatch.

Harriette Anderson Kaser, Helbros wristwatch with small diamonds. Silver stretch band. Christmas Gift from Paul Kaser. Circa 1970.

Just as interesting as the wristwatch in this case is the gift card that she kept with it. “The Duchess” was my father’s pet name for my mother from the time that they met. And even after they had been married for more than thirty years, he addressed this gift to “The Duchess.”

Not pictured are the diamond rings that she wore that she inherited from her grandmother, Hattie Stout.  Of course, she had much more costume jewelry–many sets of matching necklaces and earrings for a more dressed-up school atmosphere than we see today.  And once we moved to Arizona, and she and my father followed us, she accumulated some very nice authentic Indian jewelry.

Jeanne Bryan Insalaco of Everyone Has A Story suggested doing posts on heirlooms in a discussion in the Genealogy Bloggers Facebook group and wrote Now Where Did I Put That? Several bloggers have taken her up on the challenge to write about their heirlooms and we hope more will follow our lead.

Other bloggers doing Family Heirloom stories:

You can discover more Heirlooms at Ancestors in Aprons, by entering “Heirloom” in the search box on the right.

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